On May 9, 2016 the Duluth News Tribune ran a letter I sent them a few days ago. With enviro/energy wonk orgs in Minnesota heavily penetrated by industrial interests, and the state agencies dancing to the tune of the utilities, there is real potential for the “Clean Power Plan” to do more harm than good. We need to pay attention and think for ourselves.
The chief danger is that the CPP could be used to promote smokestack facilities burning fuels much worse than coal: “Biomass” and garbage.
The literature on the horribleness of large-scale “biomass” burning is growing rapidly. For example:
In any case, here’s my letter as published:
National Black Chamber of Commerce head Harry Alford, who wrote a column in the May 1 News Tribune headlined, “Minority families would bear brunt of Clean Power Plan,” is a longtime supporter of climate change denial campaigns.
In truth, climate change is a serious threat to our state as we know it.
The Clean Power Plan isn’t quite as promoted by some “environmental” interests. On a national basis, reductions in carbon emissions called for are less than what already has happened over the last few years due to low gas prices and slightly improved regulation of coal burners. From a climate point of view, the plan is mostly symbolic.Properly implemented, the plan seems likely to lower, not raise, electricity costs. But costs aren’t rates. Given the weakness of the Public Utilities Commission and the political clout of utilities, the plan could be used as an excuse for further unjustified rate increases.
The Clean Power Plan also may be used as an excuse to promote more burning of biomass (trees and agriculture wastes) and garbage. These are the dirtiest and most expensive electricity sources, both in terms of carbon emissions and pollutants harmful to health and visibility. The U.S. Senate just passed legislation, shamefully sponsored by Sen. Amy Klobuchar, under which the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency would wrongfully deem biomass emissions carbon neutral. Massive clear-cutting of forests for fuel already is happening in the southeastern U.S. and is a threat to the forests of the Upper Midwest.
The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency held a number of Clean Power Plan stakeholder meetings and listening sessions. Some information presented was credible but much was not.
The Minnesota version of the Clean Power Plan, properly designed and implemented, can be an opportunity to further reduce climate-changing emissions as much as possible while improving air quality. Public attention to the details matters.